Jail Release

The jail release is the beginning of many attorney-client relationships. Mykal and his staff are fast and efficient in getting people released from jail. The jail release process is different in Travis County than most surrounding counties. Travis County has 24 hour magistration while smaller counties such as Williamson, Hays, Comal, and Bastrop Counties have magistration once a day in the morning. There are few instances in Williamson and Hays County where a person will be released on their own recognizance, also referred to as a Personal Bond, but it is rare and only for a handful of misdemeanor offenses.

Travis County Pretrial Services interviews everyone arrested to determine if they are eligible for a personal bond except for those with Bond Forfeitures, out of county charges, and on cases where Pretrial Services has previously filed to motion off the bond. If a defendant is eligible and ultimately granted a Personal Bond it could still take 12 hours for the person to be released. If you hire Mykal he can expedite the process by waiving magistration so that the defendant does not have to wait and see the judge. Further, Mykal can interview the defendant and bring the bond to the Magistrate much faster than Pretrial Services can process and approve the bond for your friend or loved one. In the case of Assault with Bodily Injury involving Family Violence Pretrial Services and the Judge are both going to want to get input from the complaining witness before considering the approval or granting of a Personal Bond. In each case where the defendant is eligible for a Personal Bond a pretrial duty officer will try and make contact with a reference to try and verify the defendant’s address, length of time at that address, phone number, occupation, whether you (as the reference) believe the defendant will return to court for each court date, whether you think the defendant has used drugs including marijuana in the last 6 months, whether you think the defendant needs or will benefit from counseling (the type depends on the offense and the references response), and a few other questions depending on the offense. To get more information you can find anyone in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop, and Comal County Jail through my Resources page.

In the evenings and weekends there are attorneys on call to assist you in securing the release of your friend or loved one.

In Travis County, there are four ways to get a Defendant out of jail. These are:

1. Personal Bond. Almost every person arrested in Travis County is interviewed by Pre Trial Services for consideration of a personal bond. If the Defendant does not have an extensive criminal history, the bond amount is not too high and the offense charged is not too serious, and the defendant is not on probation, the Defendant might qualify for a personal bond. Other factors include how long the Defendant has lived in Travis County and the impression he or she makes on the bond officer who does the interview. If the charge is Assault, Pretrial Services almost always requires the alleged victim to sign a statement indicating that he or she is not afraid of the Defendant, and is not opposed to his/her release from jail.

If the Defendant is allowed a personal bond through Pre Trial Services, no attorney or bail bondsman is required for the Defendant’s release. However, an attorney can speed up the process considerably. Generally, the Defendant will be released from two to four hours after the personal bond is posted. Quite often, Pretrial Services, and ultimately, the judge, will impose conditions for the release of the Defendant, such as a drug or alcohol assessment, counseling, staying away from the victim (assault cases), supervision or an ignition interlock device (second or subsequent DWIs). There is a $20 fee paid to the couinty for each personal bond granted - more if the case is a DWI second or subsequent and an ignition interlock is required.

It is important to note that the person released is responsible to follow up on his or her court date, which is stated on the bond. Failure to do so could result in a bond forfeiture and a warrant being issued for the accused. Additionally, the Defendant will be responsible to the county for the actual amount of the bond. Thirty days after the entry of a bond forfeiture, the county normally files a civil lawsuit against the Defendant to recover the face value of the bond plus court costs and filing fees.

Of course, once counsel is hired, the attorney will make all necessary appearances and inform the client when his appearance is necessary.

In some cases, Pretrial Services will deny personal bond unless an attorney becomes involved in the case. Typically, this happens when the Defendant’s residence is in question, he lives out of the county, when the charge is especially serious, when the bond amount is over $10,000.00, when the Defendant is already out on a bond, when the Defendant has a lengthy criminal history, or his personal information cannot be verified.

In other instances, such as when multiple charges are pending, when the Defendant is already on probation or parole, or when an attorney is attempting to do a “walk-through” (see below), Pretrial Services will simply run a criminal history check on the Defendant and make no recommendation on the bond.

When Pretrial Services does not make a recommendation or denies a personal bond, the attorney still can approach a judge/magistrate and plead the client’s case for a personal bond.

2. Cash Deposit Bond. Travis is one of only two counties in Texas that allow attorneys to post cash deposit (percentage) bonds. These types of bonds are usually used in more serious cases or in bond forfeiture cases. In reality, the cash deposit bond is a personal bond that is partially collateralized. As a general rule, the attorney is required to post 10 percent of the total bond amount, although from time to time the percentage will be 15 or even 20 percent. Only attorneys are allowed to post these types of bonds. In many cases, fees collected for the release above 10 percent of the bond amount will be deducted from the retainer/legal fee for the case itself.

3. Surety Bond. Surety bonds are usually posted by bail bond companies licensed to do business in Travis County. Under a surety bond, the Defendant, as principal, and the bondsman as guarantor, contract with the county to either have the Defendant show up for court or, if the client does not timely appear, to pay the county the full amount of the bond. In some instances, such as high bond amounts, or if the Defendant has a history of not showing up in court, the bondsman will require collateral, a promissory note or a third-party guarantor to back up the bond, and to protect the bondsman from a forfeiture.

4. Cash Bond. To post this type of bond, a money order or cashier’s check for the exact amount is required. Despite the name, Travis County no longer accepts cash. You can either have an attorney post the bond (and get the Defendant to fill out the cash bond form) or you can take the money order to the Bonding Desk at the Blackwell/Thurman Criminal Justice Center. The jail staff will have the Defendant sign the proper forms. It is faster to do this through an attorney, however there is a charge for such a service (slightly higher if the Defendant is housed at Del Valle).

If you post the cash bond yourself, there is no additional charge other than the $15 service fee collected by the Sheriff’s Office on all surety or cash bonds. After the case is resolved, the money is returned to the Defendant. It is important to note that the Treasurer’s Office is required by state law to return the money to the Defendant, no matter who posts the cash. The Defendant’s interest in the money can be legally assigned to the person who posts the cash or to an attorney as part of a fee arrangement. The Treasurer’s office takes a nominal amount of the proceeds to process the transaction of returning the funds.

Warrantless Arrests: Approximately 90 percent of all arrests made in Travis County are warrantless, that is, a peace officer determines that probable cause exists to arrest a Defendant based on his own observations or on observations related to him by another person. When a person is detained/arrested under these circumstances, he or she is usually taken to the Travis County Jail Booking Desk, where the Defendant is held until formal charges are filed and bail is set. For information about the charges, status of the Defendant and/or bond amounts, call Central Booking at (512) 854-9889.

Most charges are filed soon after the arrest, and the Defendant is taken before a magistrate to be informed of the charges against him, the amount of his bond, the right to remain silent and the right to counsel, appointed if necessary.

On occasion, the police will delay the filing of a charge, which effectively prevents the individual from getting out of jail. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the police can hold an individual for up to 72 hours without formally charging him, the general rule in Travis County is that the jail will release a Defendant if charges are not filed within 48 hours, 24 hours for lesser misdemeanors.

The Hobby Rule: Unfortunately, this avenue of escape from the Travis County metal motel is no longer available since our county went to a 24 hour magistration system.

Arrests on Warrants

1. New Charges: Although some new criminal cases make their way to a judge for issuance of a warrant, the vast majority of arrests on warrants are for bond forfeitures or probation revocations. However, on occasion, law enforcement agencies will get a case where a warrantless arrest is not possible. In many instances, such as sexual assault, embezzlement, assaults where the Defendant has left the scene before the police arrive, or drug distribution cases, the investigating agency must marshall enough evidence to convince a judge that an offense has occurred. Under these circumstances, the agency will generate an affidavit for a warrant of arrest and detention, present the paperwork to a judge, and secure issuance of a warrant for the Defendant.

In many cases, if the Defendant believes a warrant might be in the works, our office will run regular warrant checks. Oftentimes, we can arrange for the Defendant to turn himself in. This can save the client a significant amount of jail time, not to mention the advantages of not having to worry about being arrested in the middle of the night, in front of family or friends, at work, or having a vehicle impounded after being stopped for a traffic violation.

This usually comes about by checking with the various law enforcement agencies, or by contacting the officer or detail who is getting the warrant, arranging bond paperwork in advance, then turning the Defendant in to the jail to be processed and released.

2. Probation Warrants: If the Defendant is on misdemeanor probation and fails to comply with his probation terms, e.g. commits another offense, has a positive UA for drugs or alcohol, misses probation meetings, etc., the Community Supervision and Corrections Department (Probation Department) may issue a violation notice, which then goes to the County Attorney’s Office for a Motion to Revoke Probation. (If the Defendant is on a Deferred Adjudication probation, a Motion to Proceed to an Adjudication of Guilt will be filed.) As a general rule, the judge will set a bond when the warrant is issued or, in some cases, the judge will issue a summons to appear before the Court.

It is an unwritten rule that an attorney attempting to secure the release of a Defendant charged with a probation violation must go to the judge who put the Defendant on probation. In many probation cases, if the allegations in the Violation Notice are not too serious, or if the Defendant doesn’t have multiple prior motions to revoke, the judge will allow his release on a cash deposit bond. In a few instances, if the Defendant has not yet been arrested, the judge might recall the warrant and have a summons issued instead.

If the Defendant knows beforehand that a probation warrant is about to be issued, a “walk-through” may be arranged. In these cases, the attorney would have the bond paperwork completed and signed by the judge in advance, allowing the bond to be posted when the Defendant turns himself in. This shortens the amount of time the Defendant spends in jail. A court date is set soon thereafter.

In District Court (felony) probation cases, the warrant is generally issued without a bond. That means that an attorney must approach the judge who has jurisdiction over the case to ask that a bond amount be set and to request that the judge approve a bond. The judge is not required, by law, to set a bond on probation arrests, unless the Defendant is on a Deferred Adjudication probation. Once again, if the Defendant knows a warrant is to be issued, it is possible, in certain cases, to get a bond set and approved to allow the Defendant to do a walk-through.

3. Bond Forfeitures: If the Defendant fails to go to County Court on a Class A or B misdemeanor, the judge usually forfeits the bond, increases the amount of the bond and issues a warrant for the Defendant’s arrest. Typically, the judge also will order that only a cash or surety bond may be posted. (See sections on bonds.) If the Defendant is arrested during the day, there is often a chance that the judge will allow the posting of a cash security bond if the Defendant does not have a history of bond forfeitures or a lengthy criminal history. However, the attorney must go to the judge of the court where the bond forfeiture occurred. If the arrest occurs at night, the only way to get the Defendant out of jail is to have a bond company or attorney post a surety bond, or to have a friend or relative post the entire bond in cash (money orders or cashiers checks only).

If a felony Defendant fails to attend court, the District Attorney could file a felony Bail Jumping charge. This is unlikely where only one court date is missed and the Defendant through counsel quickly gets his case back on the docket in good standing. Bail jumping (Tx. Penal Code, Sec. 38.10) is a third-degree felony (two to 10 years in prison, and/or a $10,000 fine). It is not a difficult case for the state to prove if the Defendant abandons a felony case for a long period of time.

Typically, in felony bond forfeiture cases, the warrant is issued without a bond amount set. As a general rule, the Defendant will have to get an attorney to talk to the judge who has jurisdiction over the case and ask him or her, first, to set a bond amount and, second, to sign a bond to post for the Defendant’s release.

4. Bond Forfeiture Civil Suits: Defendants who forfeit their bonds not only face a warrant and (usually) at least some time in jail, they also face a civil suit to recover the amount of the bond forfeited. As a general rule, the County Attorney’s Office will file a civil suit against the Defendant (and surety) 45 days after the bond forfeiture is entered.

A civil suit can be avoided if the bond forfeiture is set aside within 30 days of its issuance. However, if the forfeiture is not set aside, the County Attorney’s Office will file the civil suit and start the clock ticking for settlement of the suit. Typically, the fees for settling a civil bond forfeiture lawsuit are the costs of filing the suit, the State's attorney fees, and, in most cases, 5 percent per month of the amount of the bond. These fees are in addition to the cost of hiring your own attorney to handle the settlement.